Way Forward Meeting #3
Update to the Third “Way Forward” Meeting
At our last “way forward” meeting, we were led through some of the relationship dynamics that foster conflict. Ann Martin worked through the ways in which church leadership, and the communities in which they serve, have a tendency to operate in ways that allow conflicts to fester and pollute the church environment. She also offered a way forward that would allow conflicts to be managed in a fairly that may not always lead to absolute harmony and unanimity of opinion but allows everyone to feel that there was a fair process and that they were heard.
This last “way forward” meeting was not what was expected by many. Complicated concepts were explained too quickly to be fully understood and there was not enough time for table discussions to absorb the new information. Some would have wanted to go into the specifics and details of the more recent conflicts. That being said there was a lot of very valuable information imparted which could be very useful in the development of our community here in the Parish of Vaudreuil.
What we need to do now is to move into a more active phase of our “way forward” process. This will include two parts. The first part will be done with the entire parish and the second will pinpoint the particular individuals necessary to work through the specifics of a particular conflict. It would not be appropriate to use parish-wide meetings as a form of working through some of the conflicts that need to be addressed as some of the conversations would require the discussion of sensitive or even confidential information. Rather, the specifics of the conflicts should be looked at in something akin to the “restorative conference” or a less formal “restorative circle” suggested by Anne Martin.
In the restorative conference there would be six people from the parish, not directly involved in the conflicts, who will liaise with the facilitator who actually leads the conference. These six people will help the facilitator ensure that the right people are included in the right conferences. They would also be in a position to receive comments or suggestions as to what conferences might be necessary. The six people would be chosen by the Extended Joint Corporation of the Parish of Vaudreuil which includes the wardens, the deputy wardens, and the treasurers. The conference would then allow everyone involved to openly and honestly work through the conflict by way of individual and group meetings. The restorative circle would be a less formal, but still structured, conversation for people within the congregation without the participation of outside facilitators.
At this point there are at least three conflicts that would benefit from a restorative conference or circle. These include: the transparency of decision-making in the parish; the participation of children in the 11am service at St James; and, the context surrounding the departure of the previous incumbent. Others may be added as appropriate.
As a parish, we will also need to do some work looking forward at how we live together as a community. One of the first things we should do is the creation of a code of conduct that would inform how we act together. However, there will undoubtedly be other strategies that would serve to strengthen and enrich our community including regular e-mails regarding church activities to parishioners so that they can get information even if they miss a Sunday and community events where we can enjoy each other’s company and get to know one another outside of our fundraising activities.
Looking at where we have come in our journey to assess a viable way forward we are beginning to be able to see a way through. We began by appreciating all the things that we love about our church and then sharing both our hopes and our fears for our community. Out of this work we identified conflict as a significant block to achieving our hopes and avoiding our fears so we moved on to begin learning a just and fair way in which we can address and move through these conflicts. This would apply both to those that have already occurred and those that will inevitably occur in the future. With this information we are ready to move forward to work through these conflicts so that we are ready to address the important work that needs to be done to build our community into something that is viable for the long term.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact anyone on the extended joint corporation. For contact information please contact the office – 450-458-5897.
The Rev. Sophie Rolland